In response to comments written by Luukas Kristjan Ilves on his social media account this week on the subject of dual citizenship in Estonia, British-born journalist and politician Abdul Turay explained that his wife and son are Estonian citizens and, if Estonia were to allow dual citizenship, he would happily apply to become a citizen as well.
Luukas Ilves [on Wednesday] made some interesting comments close to the hearts of many people, both Estonian and foreigners. I am a bit embarrassed that I didn't raise this myself.
Here is my response.
Firstly, I would like to thank Mr. Ilves for his kind words about me.
The theme about which he wrote, dual citizenship, concerns all of us who live in Estonia but are not ethnic Estonians.
Let me provide a little bit of info about my own background, because most readers don't know. Despite my appearance and what the Social Democratic Party (SDE) want you to believe — yes you, Jevgeni Ossinovski! — I am not from a poor African country. I am from a rich European country.
I am from the UK. Moreover, my family have been British for a long time, going back hundreds of years. We were Black Loyalists. My ancestors fought for Britain in the American War of Independence. Sorry, Luukas, we were on the other side in that war.
When the war ended, we were evacuated to Nova Scotia and then found a new home in Africa. I had two uncles who died fighting for Britain in Burma during World War II.
When my parents went back to England, the motherland, as they called it — England is female, Estonia is male — 60 years ago, England was poor. My parents worked in factories their whole lives; they rebuilt the country.
Today, England is rich. England is my homeland, my beloved country. I love my country... but I love Estonia as well.
People want to be Estonian
Estonia is my wife's dear country and my son's country. My best friends in the world are Estonian.
I would like to be Estonian as well.
My son is Estonian, but he is in the same situation as Luukas Ilves — when he reaches 18 years of age, he has to choose. But there is this bizarre paradox that even if he gives up his Estonian citizenship, he can't lose it.
Other people are not so lucky.
I know a New Zealander, an entrepreneur and an angel investor. He is a millionaire, and he wanted Estonian citizenship. He approached me about getting Estonian citizenship a few years ago, and I discussed it with an MP. When he found out he'd have to give up his New Zealand citizenship, however, he dropped the plan.
I know a Scottish banker. He is well connected, and he still wants Estonian citizenship but he can't get it. I know a Swedish businessman — he wants Estonian citizenship, but he can't get it. You get the picture.
When I came to Estonia, a friend went to Finland. He also worked as a jouralist; he is my Finnish alter-ego. He just received Finnish citizenship.
Estonians would benefit
The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) want you to believe that if we allow dual citizenship, the only beneficiaries would be Russian-speakers and Syrian refugees. This is not true.
The main beneficiaries of dual citizenship would be Estonians. Dual citizenship would bring money and expertise into the country. There are many investors, businessmen, retirees, entrepreneurs, IT professionals and experts who would take Estonian citizenship if they had the opportunity.
Estonia offers a safe environment to live, work and raise children. On some level, people know this. Why do you think the e-residency programme is so successful?
Estonia can have dual citizenship and still protect its language, culture and borders. Dual citizenship is difficult to get. You have to speak Estonian at the B1 level at minimum, you have to know the Estonian Constitution and Estonian customs, and you have to have lived in the country with no restrictions for at least eight years. And the state has the right to turn you down if they think you are not good enough.
Dual citizenship would mean more citizens
If Estonia allowed dual citizenship, with Brexit, I am quite sure that virtually every single British person living in Estonia who meets the language and other requirements would apply.
Britain has always been a friend of Estonia. When Estonia was fighting for its independence, it was Britain that helped it. Offering dual citizenship would be a powerful way to say thank you, and we would greatly appreciate it.
Beyond that, there is the question of fairness. There are children currently being born in Estonia who are growing up in an Estonian environment but who don't have Estonian citizenship because their parents do not have permanent residency in Estonia.
When these children reach a certain age, they have to chose between Estonian citizenship and the citizenship of their parents' country.
Yes, dual citizenship would mean a lot of people might have both Russian and Estonian citizenship. But it doesn't mean that because you are Russian-speaking that you are not Estonian-minded. Giving people dual citizenship actually makes people more patriotic to the country they chose.
For many Russian-speakers, Estonia is the country they would chose. Russia is the country they are stuck with.
There is a powerful symbolism in choosing a country. It is something I look forward to someday.
Following repeated instances of hate speech and otherwise divisive comments or personal attacks on this article, the comments facility on it and a related article had to be revoked.
Editor: Aili Vahtla